The X Factor judges have never been the sort to sit shyly in the corner. In years gone by, the ITV talent contest has been defined by the sort of confrontations, battles of will and dramatic water chucking episodes that guarantee television gold.
But this year it appears everyone’s getting on awfully well…
The 2016 judging line-up sees the return of Louis Walsh, alongside fellow old-timers Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger – and it appears the panel are playing nicely for the time being.
“I can’t believe how well Simon and Sharon are getting on, it’s the best they have ever been” says Walsh. “They have become really good friends, it’s great for the show because they bring different things to it.”
Returning host Dermot O’Leary is equally astonished by this new companionship: “There haven’t been that many fights on the panel yet, which is a bit of a worry! I don’t know whether it’s because Simon’s a dad, or the fact Sharon’s quite maternal, but it’s been spreading because there have been a lot of clean sweeps, four yeses.”
Cowell became a parent to baby Eric in February 2014 – and O’Leary isn’t the only one attributing this new peaceful atmosphere to his boss’s fatherhood.
Scherzinger – who worked with Cowell as a guest judge during the seventh series – added: “I think ever since he became a dad he’s softening up a lot. I feel like his critiques are very honest, very Simon, no nonsense, he won’t beat around the bush, he’ll get straight to it. But at the same time he feels people, he’s quite sensitive, he knows how to handle certain people.
“So he’ll go, ‘Look, this is never going to happen, but I like you and this is a great quality of yours.’ So he gives them constructive criticism and I’m like, ‘Who is this man over here?”‘”
And even Osbourne – with whom Cowell has had a stormy relationship in the past – agrees that her fellow judge has found his inner zen. “For me he’s back to the Simon who laughs a lot. He’s got a very naughty sense of humour, he’s so funny. He’s letting that side come through, he’s not so uptight about everything.”
Does she reckon fatherhood has changed him? “How can it not? But it’s changed him in a really nice, cool way. He’s a really cool guy.”
There you go. Simon Cowell – “a really cool guy”. We’ll remind his son Eric of that phrase in years to come when he cringes at pictures of his father in high-waisted trousers…
The X Factor returns on Saturday 27th September at 8pm on ITV